Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exodus: Moses, the child born as a 'type' of saviour!

Stephen Dempster continues on Exodus:
"The narrative focus narrows from a stress on births (Israelite seed in general) and persecution, to a particular birth (Israelite seed in particular) – Moses, who narrowly escapes disaster by being placed in an ark in the River Nile (Exod. 2:1-10). 
Moses' salvation from the water echoes backwards and forwards in the text; backwards to the salvation of humanity from the judgement of the flood by Noah (Gen. 6-8), and forwards to the Israelites' future escape from the waters of the Reed Sea (Exod. 14). Significantly the figure of Moses, this child born as a type of saviour figure, not only saves Israel but also embodies Israel at times.
  • His rescue from the water prefigures the nation's salvation from the water;
  • his escape after the death of an Egyptian (Exod. 2:11-15) is a prelude to the Israelites' flight after the death of many Egyptians (Exod. 12:29-39);
  • his experience of being in the desert for forty years (Exod. 2:21-25) foreshadows the same for Israel (Num 14:33);
  • his divine encounter before the burning bush (Exod. 3) anticipates Israel before the fire at Sinai (Exod. 19-24).
As was the case with Joseph, another significant Israelite, this member of the tribe of Levi gives greater significance to the understanding of divine dominion in the world."
To get to the heart of the early chapters of Exodus is to catch sight of the unfolding plan of God to put all things under Christ through his saving act. See him! Moses writes of him as he records the events of the Exodus..

New Word Alive 2009 liveblogging #nwa9

We're not at #nwa9 this year but Hugh Bourne at New Word Alive, and Adrian Warnock will be there soon

Ten questions to ask at a conferrence by Don Whitney ht: JT
About New Word Alive.
Twitter #nwa9 feed

Monday, March 30, 2009

Exodus: The fundamental task of the Christian preacher of Exodus is to name God truly

IVP put out an excellent volume of lectures from Moore College recently, Exploring Exodus: Literary, theological and contemporary approaches (eds Brian Rosner and Paul Williamson)

When reading the Pentateuch my hermeneutic is essentially founded on Jesus saying in John 5:46: "if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me". - Exodus is a book that if believed leaves us believing in Christ. And the preacher's mandate must then be to proclaim Christ, to preach Christ. Interesting other themes can certainly be found in the text but the Christian preacher who shrinks from preaching Christ has no place preaching particularly when the material is as obviously Christ-ian as Exodus!  (see also MacArthurs first preach)

The final essay is on Preaching Exodus and is by Richard Gibson, catch these highlights:
“For Christian readers, the Exodus becomes Jesus' story... the New Testament writers used Exodus texts for interpreting and proclaiming God's act in Jesus... This is what it means to 'preach Exodus' – to confront people with the jealous God who redeemed them; who expects their exclusive allegiance and fidelity; who wants them, mind body and spirit; who demands their undivided attention... who in his tender-hearted compassion and loving kindness is committed to doing what it takes to maintain that relationship... Exodus provides ample opportunity to confront people with this God...
This then is my proposed thesis statement for Exodus: 'the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God' (Exod. 34:14)...

John Piper: "God's jealousy is a great threat to those who play the harlot and sell their heart to the world and make a cuckold out of God. But his jealousy is a great comfort to those who keep their covenant vows and become strangers and exiles in the world."

Gibson continues:
The fundamental task of the Christian preacher of Exodus is to name God truly. To do this the Christian preacher needs to identify the jealous God, whose name is Jealous, with the Lord Jesus...

Perhaps, when all is said and done, this is the key to 'preaching Exodus' – to feel the very jealousy of God as we proclaim his name. Perhaps we should not dare to stand before others and bring them this word of the Lord until we ache and worry and grieve with the very jealousy of God. This is the pain and the anxiety and grief that consumed Moses, Ezekiel, Jesus and Paul. Exodus testifies to how much God wants Israel. As John Calvin writes: "The Lord, who has wedded us to himself in truth, manifests the most burning jealously wherever we, neglecting the purity of his holy marriage become polluted with wicked lusts..." Yahweh wanted Israel and would not settle for anything less.
Today, this very day, the Lord wants you and will not settle for anything less: 'God wants all our worship and all our praise. He wants us to give glory to him, and to him alone. Therefore all our idols must be broken; all our sacred stones must be smashed; all our goddess poles must be cut down' (Ryken: 2005). This, it seems to me is what it means to 'preach Exodus' to a contemporary congregation.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Exodus: a new humanity which is destined to restore creation blessing to the world

“...a wonderful overview of God's ultimate plan,... showing God's magnificent purpose of recovery accomplished through Christ, ultimately establishing the reclamation of a lost human dominion over the world. This is a superb book which will help you grasp God's ultimate intention.” Terry Virgo

We're starting a sixteen part series in Exodus 1-20 with our church today. I'm preaching the 4th and 14th parts. As with Genesis, Stephen Dempster is incredibly helpful for seeing how the book fits into the bigger story of God. It's easy to read the book without the broader story, but if you're going to Preach Exodus, and therefore Preach Christ from Exodus you need the wide angle lense:

"The scene of exile in Egypt provides the geographical background for the next book, Exodus. The opening paragraph of the book (Exod. 1:1-7) links the material explicitly with Genesis and focuses on the genealogical aspect of the promise with a reference to the seventy members of the family, who came from Jacob's thigh (Exod. 1:5, Gen 46:27).

In addition with language that loudly echoes both the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and the promise to Abraham and the patriarchs, the seed of Israel dramatically multiplies (Exod.1:7). Fox aptly remarks, 'It is as if Israel's “becoming man” in Exodus fulfills the plan of history inaugurated at creation.' Before this can happen, however, some significant obstacles stand in the way.

What is viewed as creation blessing is perceived as political curse by the Egyptian authorities, no longer aware of the legacy of Joseph (Exod. 1:8). They oppress the Israelites harshly in order to reduce their population. When their plan fails, they take more drastic measures, requiring midwives to kill babies during parturition. After this plan is aborted, the Egyptians order the liquidation of all Israelite male infants (Exod. 1:8-22).

This background sets the scene for the birth of a saviour, Moses, but the larger background is also important. If Exodus is divorced from the canonical storyline, then the series of events happening to the Israelite people, in which there is a change in their political fortunes from prosperity to misery, has parallels in other cultures as well.

This can be viewed as part of a general pattern for exiled people groups. Or, another obstacle, although a major one, that is the Israelites faced on their journey to nationhood.

If, however, this text is viewed in the context of the geographical and genealogical dimensions of Genesis and in the wider context of that storyline as it it unfolds, there is a more profound reason why blessing for the Israelites is a disaster for the Pharaoh. The series of events leading up to Hebrew genocide is seen to work out the struggle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman mentioned in Genesis 3. Just as there is a clear allusion to Genesis 1 in the opening paragraph of Exodus 1, and a 'fall' of sorts in the change of attitude of the Egyptians toward them, so also there is a battle between the 'seeds'. Israel is not just a national and ethic entity. It represents in itself humanity – a new humanity – with its seventy members, which is destined to restore creation blessing to the world."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Genesis 25:19-34: The Great River of God's Electing Purpose!

The expectation is high. God has promised great blessing through Abraham’s seed. The seed has a bride, she is not just beautiful but blessed greatly, and her offspring will crush his enemy. And then, 25v21 we find that “she was barren”. Not again! Surely not! How can it be that the blessed bride whose seed will win can’t have children. We remember the command and commission to humanity to multiply and remember that this is something that requires divine intervention. The LORD closed the wombs of Abimelech’s household, and opened them. The LORD is the one who gives children. When we compare the two commissions of Genesis 1v28 and Matthew 28 it’s not that the borning is man’s work and the born-againing is God’s work. The LORD does both. And so Isaac prays and God answers. Isaac’s life is like his fathers, and the events of v21 are a condensing of 20 years from when Isaac is 40 to 60.

The Wonder of Grace
Rebekah senses the striving of her children. Twins for the first time. She inquires of the LORD. And he shares his counsel with her – not just two children, but two nations are within her. This is a blessed woman. Yet these are divided nations. Moreover the stronger will serve the other, the older the younger. This is subversive! Such is God’s way to defy human expectations. His way to defy human boasting (Romans 9v10-13) by choosing one over the other, against type, independent of performance and lifestyle. Two children, indistinguishable, yet one is chosen. We cry (Romans 10v14) unfair and yet the light shines on us – dangerous territory to start asking God for justice. We're ok to ask whether this gospel is defensible, but let us tread carefully. Instead it is the preservation of God’s purpose in election that is to shine, this is why he picks out the unlikely, its why the line of God’s purposes to bring the winning seed into the world again takes an unexpected turn. Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau… no-one gets to boast. Instead, stand in wonder of God’s electing purpose.


The Warning of Grace
Then we see the brothers – one a hunter (like Nimrod and Cain?), one a peaceful (righteous) man who dwells in tents (!!). Already one begins to stand out in the story of the Man and his bride. Esau the Red comes hungry (starving) and wants the red stew, Jacob sells dinner to his brother at the prince of his birthright. Esau so devalues God’s great purposes that he sells out his inheritance for his stomach. His god is not the LORD but his gut. No wonder he stands as a warning to not fail to obtain grace. Later he was sorrowful but wasn’t granted repentance (Hebrews 12), it could not be undone. Scary.

We might fall into his ways, but our attention should not be on us and our sin, or our sorrow or our repentance. This is the warning of God’s electing purpose. And in this we come to the mountain of God’s people, to Jesus whose blood mediates for us, yesterday, today and forever. This is the focus of God’s electing purpose, the great river of his grace that flows out from Eden and will one day see his people returned there. The sons of Isaac call us to get in on grace, which is infinitely better than all else. Don't look to how you've done, good or bad. And don't tread carelessly in the courts of divine wisdom about his purpose of election, instead look to the victorious seed of Rebekah, to Jesus who crushes his enemy and lavishes grace upon his people.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Preaching training should include watching The West Wing

Josh Harris highlights an article on the value of the teleprompter: "When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined."

I'm all for speaking without a script, but often we think it means less preparation instead of more to be able to do that. I'm all for a preacher using an outline (so long as it's one that actually makes sense) but if that's not derived from careful consideration of language, of arguments, of memorable ways of saying things then much preaching is only going to be shallow reality.

If Toby Ziegler, Sam Seaborn and Will Bailey watch every word that should be in President Bartlet's mouth, how much more should the preacher who opens his mouth to publicly portray Christ as crucified make every word count. You could start almost anywhere but season 4's double episode on the Inauguration is as good a place as any. That's not to say the preacher's character and accurate exegesis don't matter - they're non-negotiables. But adding genuine crafting of language wouldn't be a bad move, one finds it Biblically advocated in Ecclesiastes 12  and illustrated in the preceeding chapters, and we find it in the stunning language, argument and structure of Stephen's martyr-worthy sermon, Peter's Christ-exalting Pentecostal-preaching and in the parables and teachings of Jesus. I ♥ good words and good words take time.

Video: 24 (1994)

1 Corinthians 15 - Spiritual is body! (Mike Reeves)

Mike Reeves on 1 Corinthians 15: looking at the hope of the resurrection- by way of the Feast of Firstfruits Leviticus 23, Job, Jesus rejoinder to the Saducees, and much more. 

From UCCF Scotland leaders conference 2009.
ht: Dan Hames

What I'm hoping to do with my Sabbatical

On Monday I start a Sabbatical that I've graciously been granted after six years of serving with UCCF as CU Staff for Reading & Guildford and Team Leader for the South West. The plan is 12 weeks of refreshing and not very intensive study leave and 4 weeks of holiday between now and July 20th. I thought I'd let you know some of what I'll be looking at. This may or may not have an effect on my blogging here!
  • Mondays are for love the church - I plan to write up much of my thinking on the beauty and glory of the church. Not sure if there is a book length of material in my head but we'll see what comes out. Target about 40k words. The prospect of this is invigorating.
  • Tuesdays are for the evangelistic use of Ecclesiastes, what's the book about and how might we use it evangelistically among students?
  • Wednesdays are for the evangelistic use of Genesis, key themes and how it might be used in evangelism among students, particularly how might we present the Biblical foundations of reality in Genesis 1-2, which shape our sense of the purpose of life, what it means to be human etc.
  • Thursdays are for Matt Herring. Not a study project but the on going supervision of a Relay worker, always energising and a great context for working out gospel living. I'm hoping for a hot summer so we can spend a lot of these Thursdays on the beach. Outcome - gospel and suntan.
  • Fridays are for learning to cook something new each week, and pondering an evangelistic theology of food!
Which is a plan intended to give me some structure, but we'll see how it goes. In some ways it looks like an ambitious plan but I'm pretty relaxed about the outcomes and just looking forward to letting the creative juices flow as I put down all my normal responsibilities and remember that this work can carry on without me. I'm also looking forward to running, cycling and *lots* of time with my wife and son. In my diary I also have some non-work preaching at Frontiers Church Exeter and for dear friends at Reading Family Church and Arborfield Church, plus a couple of lectures for the Penninsula Gospel Partnership - which should stop me going completely stir-crazy in my study!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Seven Days Of Being A Father With L-Plates

Our son is nine days old and I've been experiencing the explusive power of a new affection which has kept me from doing lots of the things I might otherwise have been doing, along with the consuming power of sleeplessness which has a rabid appetite for life.

1. It's been a week of discovering my selfishness afresh. I like to think I'm not selfish but my frustration with my wife, with myself etc would suggest I have growing to do.
2. It's been a week of struggle to endure, particularly in the middle of last week we were really struggling with parenting. I've never felt so helpless and exhausted as we need on Wednesday and Thursday.
3. It's been a week of gratitute, our church family who we only joined just over a year ago have fed us and promise to continue to do so for another nine days, with our parents living 85-220 miles away that's all the more helpful.
4. It's been a week of deepening respect for our parents, both for parenting us but for their new life-saving roles as grandparents.
5. It's been a week of increasing love for my wife, I have never been more proud of her for the way she has poured herself out for our son in carrying him, birthing him, feeding him etc.
6. It's been a week of thankfulness that the Lord remembered us and gave us the gift of our son. I see newly how deep the love of God is to love us though we don't return his kindness. My son is so dependent upon us just as we are on our Father in heaven.
7. It's been a week at the end of which I'm aware of my need of God's grace in the Lord Jesus more than I ever thought I needed it. Sinful, saved though I am - I am found in Christ and that is my salvation and my sustaining and in him I've found myself savouring the challenges and the thrills of being a father. Life is strangely more substantial.

ps: I've still read blogs a bit this week and I really appreciated Glen Scrivener's thinking about divine comedyDaniel Blanche on questions you can always ask. Both Daniel and Glen are bloggers not to be missed. and

Friday, March 13, 2009

I have a son: Zachary Jonathan

Fourteen days late, weighing 9lb4.5oz, 54cm long, at 8.07 this morning my son was born. Zachary Jonathan.

In all my life I have never seen so clearly, in the space of 24 hours how horrendous aspects of this world are, and then how amazing beautiful things are. I feel like we left home at midday yesterday from one universe and now live in a totally different one. And this one is more painful, more breathtaking and has a word-defying beauty that I never imagined possible.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Most Important Thing I Ever Learned In Ministry

I appreciate that that's a big claim (it's somewhat reduced and relativised by the fact that we're talking about 'me' - who really cares about what I've learned...), and I don't want to minimise all the other things I've had to learn (and continue to learn) but the reality is that they flow from this source. Re-reading Preaching The Whole Bible As Christian Scripture this week I've been able to see how things changed dramatically for me about 8 years ago when I first read it towards the end of my second year on UCCF's Relay programme... the way we read the Bible shapes everything else in the Christian life. Graeme Goldsworthy writes:
"The principle is simply this: Jesus says that the Old Testament is about Him. [The question is then]... How does this passage of Scripture, and consequently my sermon (etc), testify to Christ" (p20-21)
I'm not sure I've ever learned anything else more vital. Seeing this, which I'm sure I would have affirmed before then, was like the lights turning on, like the dots being joined together. Blurry texts come into sharp focus, connections between things become visible. My Bible became a coherent sixty-six part Christian document and not just a mess in twenty seven parts. The glories of the gospel become freshly unveiled and their riches begin to sparkle.

The implications of this lead to asking about the centrality of the gospel in each and every area of my life... something that I'll be grappling with on every today I'm given. That the gospel is central will surely forever be the most important thing I learn in life, everything else is unpacking and outworking and applying that - starting with my home - with my wife and the imminent (and overdue) arrival of our first child.

More on this at BeginningWithMoses.org, in God's Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts, Mike Bullmore on The Functional Centrality of the Gospel in the Local Church.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Believers Baptism or Infant Baptism?

On Sunday we had nine baptisms (I think) which was great - with Adrian Holloway preaching. I was struck that many of those being baptised were from Christian families. Often such people speak as if that's a poor testimony to have - but I'm a fan. What a blessing to have had parents raise them in the faith. Some had doubtless been 'baptised' as children. Some must have faced the interesting tension between honouring their parents faith, and having come to different conclusions on baptism.

A few years ago I was seriously looking at ministry in the Church of England and spend time studying the Anglican/Presbyterian position on baptism. Should be said that by that point I'd been christened and then confirmed in my early teens, before becoming a Christian at 18 and being baptised at 19. Bishop Wallace Benn conmmended John Murray's Christian Baptism to me as the book that convinced him on the issue. I read it and I wasn't. I'd not particularly found any books that argued well the other way - most baptists seem to just say 'it's obvious', which is reasonable enough but not all that helpful!

This seems to get there. PDF: Stephen J. Wellum on Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants from Believers Baptism
ht: JT - 'baptism as a test case for biblical theology'
"...circumcision, as a type, pointed to a spiritual regeneration. Baptism, on the other hand, testifies that by faith these realities have occurred. Baptism marks and defines the children of God, those who believe in Messiah Jesus. That is why we baptize only those who have confessed Jesus as Lord, who have experienced his power, who are, by faith and spiritual rebirth, Abraham’s true spiritual seed." (PDF p63 of 66)
Wellum continues...
"What does baptism signify? As already stated, it signifies a believer’s union with Christ, by grace through faith, and all the benefits that result from that union. It testifi es that one has enteredinto the realities of the new covenant and as such, has experienced regeneration, the gift and down-payment of the Spirit, and the forgiveness of sin. It graphically signifies that a believer is now a member of the body of Christ..." (PDF p64 of 66)
We meet and sing the gospel. We meet and preach the gospel. We eat communion and preach the gospel. We baptise and preach the gospel. It's simple really (!), gospel, gospel, gospel because "Christ has come, God deals with all nations directly through his Son".

Monday, March 09, 2009

Preaching: You know its Christ when its gospel

This morning I had the priviledge of spending some time coaching one of the younger guys at our church who is preaching next Sunday (mp3). I love that guys like him get the opportunity to serve in this way. I find it strange to be referring to 'younger' - can I do that at 29... Mostly, I feel very priviledged to have been in the position of being able to offer some help...
I suggested that, having done his basic study and outline of the text, it's helpful to ask three questions:
  1. How does this passage testify to Christ? This is the core content of the message. The Bible is always about Christ, the real question is just "How?" and the opportunity is to hold up the particular riches of Christ that this passage displays so that God's people can believe in him.
  2. What is this passage supposed to achieve? This is the application we aim for, what the passage was meant to do for the original audience is what it's meant to do for us (at least when that's read in view of how the passage testifies about Christ). Application should shape the sermon.
  3. What's here that we'll disbelieve and why? This is where we aim with the sermon. Knowing where we want to go and where we're coming from does a lot to define the route we're to take.
Then, look to structure the content around the application to achieve the aim. This is essentially Tim Keller's approach (as much as I can tell from Preaching to the Heart, mixed with some Goldsworthy, Honeysett and others who have taught me.

The passage in question was 2 Corinthians 13. I was struck that Paul is challenged by the Corinthians who are asking him a good question that he takes seriously and generously, namely: 'can you give us proof that Christ is speaking through you?' rather than the super-apostles (13v3). He has been with them twice and will be again (Two-three witnesses...Deut 17:6,19:15, Matt 18v:6 etc). He hopes is third visit wont be to condemn them with apostolic authority but to rejoice with them (v10-11).

He answers their question. His answer in v3-4 seems to be through a three-fold laying out of the pattern of Christ's weakness and power, his death and resurrection - unsuprisingly for Paul things always come back to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We see Paul's weakness and Christ's power. From which I conclude, you know it's Christ speaking when it's the gospel. So go with Paul because the message and the medium is with the gospel. And in 2 Corrinthians we particularly see the clarity of his powerful gospel preaching and the weakness of the man.

The remainder of the passage turns the question with hope onto the Corinthians. He speaks for Christ... is Christ in them... I look forward to hearing the finished preach that will conclude our series in the book.
I preached on 2 Cor 2 and 2 Cor 3 way back in the early autumn.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Everyone is a Theologian: A hearty Amen to Steve Timmis

Recently a clashed views with Steve Timmis's blog on "parachurch" at Resurgence, today I just want to say a loud Amen to his post on theology:
"...if evangelical theology is the truth about God in Christ, then all Christians are theologians in every sense that matters...[doctrines are to be] faced up to by a group of saved sinners as they cry out to the Holy Spirit to open blind eyes. Calvin was right in a number of things, not least when he said, “Doctrine is an affair, not of the tongue, but of life.”"
See also Dan Hames at Theology Network: Why and how to do a theology of everything

Saturday, March 07, 2009

FREE MP3s: Tim Keller & others from The Proclamation Trust

Tim Keller on The Biblical Pastor (and his idols!) and Planting Churches from the Evangelical Ministry Assembly 2000
Plus loads from Don Carson, Bruce Milne, Philip Jensen, John Piper, Dick Lucas...
Just register free and you can download all the EMA audio pre-2004 for free.
 ht: Colin Adams
More Tim Keller mp3s etc at TimKeller.info

Genesis 23:1-25:18: Securing the future of the Seed

105 verses to finish the story of the coming of the promised seed..  
Unanswered questions (as posed by Stephen Dempster): what about the land and what about Isaac’s future in the land?!

Of death and securing the land.
This part of the story begins and ends with death, the generation of Abraham goes to the grave (ch23, ch25). First Sarah dies, and we find Abraham acquiring a grave, and then latterly we’re told of the death of Abraham, buried by Isaac and Ishmael in the same grave. Death is a problem for a nomadic people like the ‘house’ of Abraham – where can you bury your dead if you have no land? God has come good on the promise of a seed, but the land is further off – generations and centuries away. Can any stake in the land be secured?

The grave of Abraham and Sarah is in Canaan. Abraham goes to the Hittites, the people of the land (x3), near the oaks of Mamre where he has lived. He asks to be allowed to buy a plot for a grave, they say that they would want to give this Prince of God a plot. He refuses and insists upon paying. Abraham refused to receive wealth from the King of Sodom, and now he refuses to receive the land God promised him from the Hittites (ch15).  Eventually, with the wealth God has prospered him with he buys the plot and a cave in which to bury his wife. Abraham’s family now have a very small foothold on the land that God has promised them.

The story of The Man and his bride is not just a story of the search for a seed but also for land. This is the story of genealogy and geography. A seed to take them into God’s place, and the place into which the seed will take them. Both threads can be pursued to find the fulfillment in the one who is truly God’s people and God’s place.

Of life, and a bride for the promised seed.
In between these we find a deeply repetitive story concerning the future of the Seed, Isaac. Abraham’s servant goes to find a wife from the country he had come from. Abraham insists against a Canaanite wife. Could this be again to ensure that the land comes by promise not inheritance? Could this be instructive to the original readers Israel who will enter the land and then tragically intermarry with Canaanites and follow their gods (Judges 3v5-6)?

The servant, perhaps Eliazer of Damascus, (Genesis 15) goes under oath. At a well he prays, for like his master, he believes in the LORD - trusting his steadfast love (grace). The LORD answers and identifies the attractive young Rebekah to be the prospective wife of Isaac. He goes with her to her brothers house and re-tells the whole story. This feels a bit tedious in the reading, why tell it twice? The repetition highlights the importance of God's gracious provision of the bride of the promised seed. Earlier in Genesis 10 generations pass quicker than the telling of this story. Pay attention! It's emphatic: How did the Seed get a bride? The LORD graciously spoke.

On hearing Rebekah's brother and father identify the hand of the LORD in the situation and consent, as she does. It’s worth asking whether Nahor’s house would be believers. We know that Christ appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia before his family journeyed to Haran and on to Canaan (See Stephen in Acts 7). This led to his repentance from moon-worship to call on the LORD. Perhaps his brothers did the same? Perhaps they are converted here through Eliazer? On his arrival they recognise the LORD's blessing on him (24v31) and by his conclusion they have heard the LORD speak (24v51)

As Rebekah departs she is blessed by her family (24v60) to be come thousands and told that her seed will possess the gates of those who hate him. ESV and Holman translations keep or offer this singular, while others read it in plural. The Hebrew is the same as that in Genesis 1 (the third day of seed bearing plants), of Eve’s seed, of Abraham’s seed (whom Paul makes such a point in Galatians 3 as being singular) The promise holds for the people who represent the seed if it’s plural but look more directly not just to Isaac, seed of Abraham, but to the ultimate seed who will come from Abraham and from Isaac, namely Christ against whose people the gates of hell will not prevail!!

Rebekah arrives and Isaac lifted his eyes in faith (as Lot did to Sodom, as Abraham did to the dusty Canaan) and sees his beautiful bride approach. He sees his future. She sees her future.  His mother is dead, his father will soon die, Isaac has a foothold on the land through the grave his father owns, and now he looks to the future, for comfort, for salvation, with his bride from whom will come the serpent-crushing seed who will take his people into the land. The man and his bride become one flesh. He takes her into the tent. Isaac's story is almost done, his long awaited birth passed almost unnoticed, his figurative death and resurrection and the acquiring of a bride for him dominate his story... as you might expect from Abraham's seed.

You know you're on the UCCF staff team when...

Gareth Leaney's missing month: found... mission weeks... training young leaders...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Pentecostalism didn't really begin at Azuza Street in 1906...

Lex Loizides continues his church history blog.... The Pentecostal Power of the Puritan Movement
"The central role of the power of the Holy Spirit was a key factor to the growth of the Evangelical Churches of the Puritan era. This shouldn’t surprise us when we consider that Paul himself said, ‘My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.’ (1 Cor 2:4-5 NIV)
The power of the working of the Holy Spirit has always been God’s means of authenticating His gospel to the hearts of those who hear. What is truly amazing for anyone who examines the statements of those who witnessed the immense popularity of the ‘new’ puritan movement is the similarity of the scenes with – wait for it – early Salvationism, or early Pentecostalism...."
I appreciate that to some degree it really depends what is meant by pentecostalism or charismatcism or continuationism etc. Among the many things appreciate about the Puritans (as you'd expect from The Valley of Vision) is that they were deeply concerned about the Word, the Spirit and the the gospel effecting their affections.

A biblical vision of the Spirit's work from 1 Cor 2 and 12-14 is nothing to be afraid of - it's gospel-centred, heart-changing and church-building.

BBC: Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Andrew Marr)

BBC iPlayer has Andrew Marr's Darwin's Dangerous Idea:
(available for UK til March 26th)

Summary: "He argues that Darwin's theory has transformed our understanding of what it means to be human. Over the last 150 years, Darwin's ideas have challenged the need for a creator, undermined religious authority, and provided new ways of looking at the origins of human morality."

Andrew Marr's offers a sympathetic history of the effects of Darwin's ideas in this first of three programmes.

Darwin's logic shows he had understood Christianity as a human system of thought devised for human advantage, rather than sourced from divine origin and humbling us, and thus argued his science.

Darwin's observations made about the brutality of the world are worth comparing with CS Lewis' answers in De Futilitate which would suggest missteps in Darwin's argument.

Marr concludes:
"Man is the great truth-seeking primate, Darwin has given us a great truth.  And there is no going back"

Genesis 22: The Death of the Promised Seed on Mount Moriah / The Resurrection of the Promised Seed On The Third Day

In many ways Genesis 22 is the climax of Abraham’s story, a story that has essentially been about his son Isaac. The birth of Isaac passed briefly but this event a chapter later that truly pulls everything together. Abraham’s story will have three further chapters including the death of this man and his bride, and the finding of a bride for the promised seed. First though, to Genesis 22. Previously we had Abraham's two sons, one in the wilderness, one by the tree, one without inheritance, one an inheriter... How does that happen?

In Genesis 22 consider the people involved. Abraham, God's righteous man is here. So too is the LORD (Christ – v1, 11, 15, 16). Also we see Isaac, the promised seed (v2 ‘your son, your only son, whom you love’!). Isaach the promised seed carries the wood up to where the burnt offering will be made for sin (see also Leviticus 8v18). In this scene Christ is everywhere - Abraham, Isaac, the mountain, the sacrifice, the LORD himself... Genesis 22 has gospel written all over it.

Consider the place. Christ calls him to the mount of blessing and curse. Where do these events happen? Moriah. This is where the Son of David will build the temple 2 Chronicles 3v1. The place of sacrifice for sin. What happened last time Abraham was here? He met the king of Salem and God blessed him (Genesis 14v18-19) – compare that with what faces him here? Last time blessing now it looks like curse...

Consider the purpose.  Christ tests Abraham’s faith. 22v1 – Testing Abraham’s faith.  What happens? Hebrews 11v17-19 – he acts in faith and figuratively the promised seed is raised from the dead. When does this happen? All of this, on the third day. On the third day! The day of the seed (like the original third day), the day of victory and enthronemen (for David), the day of resurrection. Isaac's third day is one that looks ahead, pre-figuring the day when Christ the substitute God provides for our sin will be raised. Raised, and then life breaks out - the first-fruits and then the harvest of new life.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why does UCCF have a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship, and how should it be used?

Here's 27minutes of a really helpful workshop on doing unity in a Christian Union... I've deeply enjoyed working through 1 Corinthians 12-14 with Kenny in recent months and batting this key question around, the fruit has been this workshop he delivered at our CU leaders weekend. Kenny blogs occasionally.

Download MP3: We are being transformed together in the gospel.



Christian Unions unite a wide range of people; how is that supposed to work in practice?What do you think are the benefits/difficulties of having an interdenominational mission team?
- What's been your experience of this - positively and negatively?
- What do you think are the benefits/difficulties of having a doctrinal basis of fellowship?
- What do you see as key issues you would like to consider in this seminar?

1. Why do we have a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship?
(i) It is exclusive and inclusive
(ii) It is confessional
(iii) It is a good thing!

2. Issues that arise from having a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship
(i) Dealing with those who disagree with it

- Arrogance v. Humility. Vicar Bob, of local church St Botolph of the Windy Lawns, has been invited to do some bible teaching at Axelrod College CU. He replies to the CU Exec explaining that he cannot in good conscience sign the DBF, because he disagrees theologically with point e, that Jesus is
God. Helpful principle: build friendships

(ii) Dealing with disagreements within it

- Suspicion v. Partnership. Bristominster CU are aware that lots of students attend the local pentecostal church but aren't involved in CU. It is a bible-believing church, but the pastor's methods are somewhat 'unconventional'. CU President Hugo decides to meet the pastor, and takes a copy of the DB to discuss, thinking that if the pastor proves himself to be 'sound' then he'll chat to him about getting his students along to CU. Helpful principle: Invite widely, accept generously

- Primary v. Secondary. Dreckly Tech College has a lively CU of about 30, who are united in the gospel and engaged in evangelism on campus. However, within the CU, there are a wide variety of opinions on the role of women in ministry and whether women should do some of the bible teaching in the CU. Helpful principle: Have a working policy 

 - Power v. Sacrifice. Banterhampton CU have a very conservative style of worship in their CU meetings. This upsets some students from a more charismatic background who deeply appreciate a more fluid style of worship with space to reflect. Their suggestions are dismissed by louder voices in the CU. Helpful principle: Be willing to lay all down, but the Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship

3. How to do gospel unity
 The principle of love. 1 Cor 13: 1-7.
Describe the dynamic in your CU.
Is it a diverse group of Christians? Do they come from a variety of church backgrounds & experiences? How does that diversity contribute to the life of the CU, positively and/or negatively?
How do you feel towards those different from you? What words would you use to describe those feelings? Be as honest as you can!
Read v1-3. Write down the gifts mentioned. What is more important than all of them? Why are the gifts so ineffective if that thing is not present?
Read v4-7. Write down the adjectives used to describe what love is, and what love is not: What love is: What love is not: (Note: these are relational adjectives; they describe how love responds to other people.) 
Think about the different people in your CU. Which of these adjectives most commonly describe how you feel about them? Which describe your feelings in a situation of disagreement? What needs to change in your heart? What needs to change in your CU?

4. Questions & Discussion.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Gospel and Outbreeding the Pagans...

Matt raves about Voddie Baucham, and with good reason I reckon.

Have a listen to this challenge to the Southern Baptists which could be written to most of us on decline and the gospel...

How do the churches of Exeter reach Exeter? Voddie points us to the centrality of the gospel in the family. Reach men by making a big deal of being a husband and father. Say Amen or say Ouch.

And MP3: The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World at Desiring God, 2006. 
Pyromaniacs on What he must be if he wants to marry my daughter...
MP3: What he must be if he wants to marry my daughter...

Knowing God: If it's so important why isn't it more obvious?

Tom Price's straw-poll of questions that scare Christians turned up this one: If Jesus is truth, then why do so few find this truth and so many doomed to hell? Which is a re-phrase of one of Shelley's 12th question in his 1811 The Necessity of Atheism, a pamphlet that got him kicked out of Oxford University - how times have changed! He asked: If the knowledge of God is most necessary, why is it not the most evident and clearest? The Christian wants to accept the premise of this question - Jesus is truth and the knowledge of God is most necessary. How then is it that "so few find this truth and so many are doomed to hell..." why isn't it "most evident and clearest".Facing this question three years ago I noted: 
It is simply not the case that God has left us a lack of evidence. We simply find God's words distastful. Polly Toynbee and Richard Dawkins have both spoken out on this in the media in recent months. Notable atheists by confession. They have grasped the basic content of the Christian gospel. They see that the crucifixion of Jesus is central. However they look at it and call it "repugnant" and "barking mad". They are offended by such a message from God. As are countless others throughout time. Do not be fooled into thinking the gospel is unavailable or inaccessible, neither vague nor mysterious.
The problem is not in God's revelation but rather in the human heart. A heart that looks at the grace of God and refuses it.  It is human pride that blinds Toynbee to the truth. It is the sheer simplicity that so befuddles Dawkins. The Christian gospel is good news and bad news for us. It is our only hope of rescue, and simultaneously the defeat of our self-assertion and proudness of heart. Everything necessary has been done.

Shelley was evidently incensed by the gospel. Venomous and determined to refute it. He was not unaware of it. Like so many others he was offended. The Cross is not a message we wanted to hear. It did not fit the mould of a god he wanted to believe. Perhaps he never really saw the true gospel. Perhaps he never saw it truly lived out in the Christian community. His questions were good and honest. My answers are too late for him, hopefully not for others.
I think however that faced with this question now instead of giving a quick answer I'd want to pose more questions:
 

1. If God isn't obvious, what is obvious when you look at the world?
I guess this might lead to some comment about the apparent futility of the world - in suffering etc in which we'd find CS Lewis a good friend to introduce into the conversation.... A genuine sense of the wrongness of wrong is already a substantial step towards theology.

2. Why do you think Christians think it so necessary to know God?
What is it that Christians you've met seem to think is so good and beneficial and worth having about Jesus? This might lead us to talk about how he simply doesn't seem worth getting to know, or that he's just a ticket out of hell... but it might also allow us to talk about some of the differences in the lives of Christians, the importance they place on Christ, the way they treasure him not because he can get them out of hell but as an end in himself.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Question: Help! Now I'm a CU leader will this eat my life?

Dear Joe CU-Leader,

You're a CU leader. What a great responsibility, a new domain over which to rule humbly, an opportunity to be more human (Genesis 1v27-28).  You're going to be adminstrating and facilitating mission on campus, what a priviledge! But, you may well be fearing whether you have the time to do this, wont this just eat up your life? Life was kinda busy before and now you have a few extra things to do.

Half the problem here is that most of us aren't great at using our time. All of us have 168 hours a week, whether you're unemployed or are the prime minister - everyone gets the same hours. In theory you can do a lot with 168 hours. Think of the miles that could be travelled, the words that could be written. Just add up the number of facebook and pro-evo hours and you'll see why you think you might not have time for extra responsibility...

Life doesn't compartmentalise easily - and actually most of life is meant to overlap. Time with Christians and non-Christians... study and socialising... Most of your non-Christian friends are in your lectures with you...  If you live unintentionally you'll not fit in all the pieces. If you wake up and realise that God has given you a domain in which to live for him - consisting of time, of people, of work.... of people to encourage, of people to witness to about Christ... The most common concerns I find for new CU leaders are about their involvement in church, their course and of time with non-Christians....
 
What about church? It's true that having responsibility in CU might have some impact on your church involvement. Firstly, it's right to ask - great to ask. Student church life is peculiar, you probably have two churches - one you're part of 30 weeks a year, and another for 22 weeks. Student life is wierd, but it wont last for long. The norm is to live in one place and belong to one church family. What will that look like? Three main ways: attending meetings, commiting to people, and service (the lines are blurry and those categories aren't ideal, but you get the idea).


Being involved in the CU isn't cost-free (nothing worth doing is). You will miss a small number of Sundays. Most CUs have one weekend away in the autumn for everyone, and as a leader also you're invited to attend a regional UCCF weekend away at the end of February. Some CUs have a third weekend for small group leaders...  All of which could reduce you from 30 weekends at your Uni church to 27-28. Resist the temptation to hold other CU weekends. A lot of training can be done on a 'one day' basis without going away. You'll notice that the CU staff who serve multiple-CUs often leave your weekends away on Saturday evening so they can get home to meet with their church family... Make it the norm to be with your church family. That requires to thinking about how many Sundays you're away visiting friends and family too - you have flexibility, you could get back for Sunday. God might have you spend the rest of your life with these people so get to know them - and not just on Sundays.
    Commiting to people is a big deal, this is about how you live your life. You can drive in and drive out of church meetings without doing this. Get to know people. Invite them to eat with you, socialise with them, go help them with DIY. Be involved in their lives and involve them in yours. The same approach will give you more than enough time to spend with friends who aren't Christians. Sacrifice your 'independence' and 'freedom' which so easily becomes sinfulness and open your life up to others - be human by being relational. And seriously, there are two ways to get your CU doing mission. One, plans endless programmes, or two, plan some stuff and then just lead by example. The latter is much more enjoyable.

    Serving in church? As a CU leader you are serving your church, by being involved in a partnership between your church and the other churches in the city for the sake of student mission that will build the church. But there might be other ways you can serve. Maybe this year you can't do preparation-heavy youthwork but you really could turn up early to setup or some other unseen practical service. CU leaders have done this in the past and you'd be wise to do the same. Talk to your church leaders to find a way you can serve. Be creative. Serve people by being interested in them .The time question effects your course too, but if you view it as your job and try working like most people, 9-5 you'll easily get everything done and still have loads of spare time.

    Lastly, about how to do your role in the CU. Some people love committee meetings and hold really long ones in which they talk about really pointless things for a really long time. They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee (i.e. a wierd looking thing!). Your responsibilities to lead the CU could probably be worked out in an hour a week (seriously). You're a team who are there to get things done - discuss some things, decide swiftly. Most of the work of a CU leader is about either mobilising the mission team with the gospel so they go with the gospel, or creating contexts to which people can come and hear the gospel. Invest the time that CU leading is going to take in doing those things rather than huddling around in planning meetings, if as a leadership team you lead by example people will follow.

    Know the vision you're being entrusted with - it's a good one that probably doesn't need endlessly rewriting, just get down to implementing it quickly and effectively in your life and for the good of your fellow students, and so for the growth of the church as you take responsibility for the times and places and people God has entrusted to you. You have a great opportunity, we're with you, your church is with you - let's make it count.

    Dave

    Monday, March 02, 2009

    UK: What do we believe? Evolutionism? Creationism? Lilyallenism?

    The UK belief map on creationism, intelligent design, evolution and all that...

    "Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism. Belief map shows support for Darwin's theories. God and evolution can be compatible, says thinktank"
    ht: funkypancake
    Useful to be aware of what people are thinking.

    And Emily posts on Lily Allen The Fear that 'everyone' has been buying for the last five weeks... who knows how widespread this worldview is either, but it seems to capture something of 'pop' culture of wags and mags...
    "Now I’m not a saint, but I’m not a sinner, Now everything's cool as long as I’m getting thinner, I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore, I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore, When do you think it will all become clear? 'Cos I’m being taken over by the fear..."

    MP3s: South West Christian Unions Leaders Conference

    Last weekend was the South West CU leaders Weekend. Due to impending parenthood (we're still waiting) I didn't go to the biggest weekend in my diary... but the student missions leaders were left in the safe hands of Pete Greasley and the SW team. By the reports I've heard Pete served us very well and I'm exceedingly thankful for his partnership in the gospel with us. More from Pete Greasley and the guys at Christchurch Newport

    Pete Greasley - 1 Corinthians 15 - not recorded
    Pete Greasley - Living in the world
    Pete Greasley - "I thirst"

    "We are the Christian Unions" Workshops
    (1) We are being transformed - Kenny Robertson
    1.1We are being transformed... together in the gospel - Kenny Robertson  
    1.2 We are being transformed by the word - not recorded
    1.3 We are being transformed in the heart - not recorded
    1.4 We are being transformed in the details of our lives - not recorded
    (2) We are on mission - Kenny Robertson - not recorded
    2.1 We are on mission globally - not recorded
    2.2 We are on mission strategically - not recorded
    2.4 We are on mission prayerfully - not recorded
    (3) We are image bearers - Kenny Robertson - not recorded
    3.1 We are image bearers who love the church - not recorded
    3.2 We are image bearers who use resources well - not recorded
    3.3 We are image bearers who study for Jesus - not recorded
    3.4 We are image bearers who lead - not recorded

    Question: How can I know there's a God?

    Some people have seemingly no interest in this question, and in that case I'd direct you to think about The Great Myth we believe, about The Futility, of Beauty, love etc. Not that I expect these to be entirely persuasive - but might suggest some further consideration is necessary.


    When it comes to the question of whether we can know if there is a god.... Some suggest that there must be a god because there must be an uncaused cause at the root of the universe. That at some point something must have made everything. Someone then asks, who made god - and the reply comes, it's like asking who the batchelor's wife is. It's a category mistake, he just is.

    One way often appealed to is that there must be an uncaused cause. It's the chicken and the egg defence. Things have to start somewhere, right? Richard Dawkins cites this in The God Delusion (p77) attributes to Thomas Aquinas. "The Uncreated Cause. Nothing is caused by itself. Every effect has a prior cause, and again we are pushed back into regress. This has to be terminated by a first cause, which we call God. "

    This argument works on the basis that everything we observe being cause is caused by something. It's an argument from the nature of 'creation'. As a Christian I entirely believe that creation rings out songs about God. The separation of light and dark, sky and earth, land and sea all speak of the unfolding of God's order. The presence of life speaks of the overflow of the trinitarian life of God. Above all else stands humanity. Not special because we're different to the animals but because we're like God. All of these things I see because I already believe in God. All of these support my belief (as they should if its true) but they're not why I hold it in the first place.

    The reason I believe in God is because I know him through the Son of God, Jesus. Jesus himself says that only he knows God the Father, Jesus and anyone to whom Jesus makes him known. By Jesus we know God as Father, as the Father of the Son. Jesus is the ultimate prophet who shows us God. He is the Word of God, sent forth to reveal the Father.

    The definitive evidence that supports this claim is the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus from death.  Christianity is conditioned upon this. Without that then you can write-off everything about Jesus, he's just a dead guy who talked some fine words and a whole lot of manipulative nonsense. With his resurrection there is decent plausibility to say, beyond reasonable doubt, that he is indeed God the Son, through whom we know God the Father. An invitation to know the unoriginate, uncaused-cause isn't all that appealing. A personal invitation to know the Father through his Son is rather different.



    See Athanasius, 1650ish years ago in Against the Arians: "...in calling God unoriginate, [the Arians]* are, as I said before, calling Him from His works, and as Maker only and Framer, supposing that hence they may signify that the Word is a work after their own pleasure. But that he who calls God Father, signifies Him from the Son being well aware that if there be a Son, of necessity through that Son all things originate were created. And they, when they call Him Unoriginate, name Him only from His works, and know not the Son any more than the Greeks; but he who calls God Father, names Him from the Word; and knowing the Word, he acknowledges Him to be Framer of all, and understands that through Him all things have been made." (1.33) 

    *I'm not saying Aquinas, or those who use such logic are all Arians, just that there might be a better way to argue the case.

    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    Keller at Newfrontiers

    Adrian Warnock begins to write up his notes from Tim Keller on preaching. I love Kellers theology of preaching so its well worth a read of Adrian's notes. Basically looks like a version of what he did at Oak Hill in November on Preaching to the Heart.

    Related articles:
    Jonathan Edwards - Divine & Supernatural Light which is just excellent - and is the one with the tasting honey reference

    "Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind."

    Lloyd-Jones on the point where you stop taking notes and just see Christ is here from the Puritan and Westminster Conference of 1976 - Jonathan Edwards and the Importance of Revival:


    "The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently. In this respect Edwards is, in a sense, critical of what was a prominent Puritan custom and practice. The Puritan father would catechize and question the children as to what the preacher had said. Edwards, in my opinion, has the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit. As preachers we must not forget this. We are not merely imparters of information"

    Graeme Goldsworthy - Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture - which has been one of the key contributors to me thinking about, well, what the title says.

    Josh Harris: Don't waste your church involvement

    The Third Brother: with neither an elder brother's pridefulness nor a younger brother's sarcasm

    Marvin Olasky suggests that there's an alternative to being a younger brother or an older brother (re: Luke 15), the gospel creates the third brother.... "with neither an elder brother's pridefulness nor a younger brother's sarcasm...beauty shows up where we expect banality, and evil emerges where we anticipate excellence... their goal is to change hearts"

    ht: Peter Benson

    CS Lewis: The idea of a wholly mindless and valueless universe has to be abandoned (De Futilitate, part 3)

    Part 1 - Opening our eyes to the futilityPart 2 - Interrogating the futility.
    Part 3. Lewis concludes his essay De Futilitate.....

    Saying the universe is futile requires us to assume that our thinking, itself in the universe, isn't futile... doing this shows we think there to be some morality and value and reason in the universe. Putting the universe on trial assumes a great deal about us and the universe. We might, however, deny that the universe has a moral purpose because of the "wasteful cruelty and apparent indifference or hostility to life". But says Lewis thats the very thing we can't do! Because "unless we allow ultimate reality to be moral, we cannot morally condemn it".

    The good atheist rages defiantly his accusations towards "apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos is really an unconscious homage" - it's worship of the universe or something behind it that is of infinite value or authority. Because, if  "mercy and justice were really only private whims of his own with no objective and impersonal roots, and if he realized this, he could not go on being indignant."

    Lewis suggests that such recognition is perhaps even pleasing to God. He suggests there's something holy about the one who rages in frustration, contending with the futility, not just accepting a cursed and marred and frustrated universe. We're invited to see that we need not just take the futility and certainly not deny it.

    Rather we contend with it - and facing it find ourselves having to admit that the universe logically cannot quite so futile as we think. It will take theology to get to the root of futility. This essay isn't written to pursue the theology, but Lewis offers advice to the one who would pursue it. Anyone wanting to inquire can "save himself time by confining his attention to two systems - Hinduism and Christianity. I believe these are the two serious options for an adult mind."
    - Materialism is a philosophy for boys. - The purely moral systems like Stoicism and Confucianism are philosophies for aristocrats.
    - Islam is only a Christian heresy, and Buddhism a Hindu heresy: both are simplifications inferior to the things simplified.
    - As for the old Pagan religions, I think we could say that whatever was of value in them survives either in Hinduism or in Christianity or in both, and there only they are the two systems which have come down, still alive, into the present without leaving the past behind them.
    De Futilitate is much harder work to understand than The Funeral of a Great Myth, but the effort is rewarding. Lewis shows us that it would be normal to identify the futility of the universe and to find it abnormal and even contend with it. I find this deeply liberating - The Bible book of Ecclesiastes resonates with my experience of life and its strange to try and paper over that. If we're to accept that the futility is there then we begin to accept that the universe is moral, reasonable and meaningless in some sense, yet not absolutely. This confrontation with the futility we experience leads us into theology, but that's for another day.